The Weekend review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
The Weekend Sydney Festival 2019
Photograph: Prudence Upton

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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This one-woman show is a wild journey through Redfern's housing commission towers

Addiction hurts. Not only for the person it directly affects, but others too: its toxic ramifications injecting itself right into the lives of families and communities. In one-woman show, The Weekend – a new Australian work premiering as part of Sydney Festival’s Blak Out program – there’s more simmering under the surface when the lens closes in on the woman grappling to find herself and piece together her family.

The woman is Lara (Shakira Clanton), and she’s going through a hell of a weekend. She’s a dancer working in Cairns, but she gets on a plane back to Sydney after her kids tell her that their father’s left them alone. Now she’s back, trekking it night and day to retrace her partner’s last steps. Where is he and what will she find? Bumping into characters of all tricks and trades, what she finds is less about him – and it becomes her own rediscovery journey.

Dancer-writer Henrietta Baird’s debut play travels far and wide within this deep pocket of Redfern and Waterloo housing commission towers. Her writing is generous with its characters, giving full shape to Lara’s journey as she weaves herself in and out of rooms – suspicious of the women she meets along the way. But there’s always more to the picture, and the production’s stripped-back set of a wall of three mirrors visually reflects the sense that Lara has to face herself as well. When the borders of the mirrors light up, it changes up her surroundings too, and soon you’re stepping right into Lara’s shoes as she’s hastily running away from the police; or sitting on a swing at a park, chatting with Ronnie about how DoCs took her children.

Clanton brings Baird’s monologue to vivid life, delivering a kinetic character-switching performance that see her mannerisms and clever voice work flip characters with ease. When she milks out Baird’s strongest pieces of dialogue, which home in on the details of her surroundings – the tomato-sauce covered buttons of a public housing lift that give off a rancid stench – it gives real comic bite to Lara’s character, and she really shines here. The script could do with more of these strong, detailed moments that recount less and describe more; particularly when it plays out in character interactions, and where the messy underpinnings and consequences of drug dealing hit home.

In that way, The Weekend’s weighty impact arrives more punchily in its sum of its parts, than it does through its individual segments. But when the play sketches out the full picture, it’s all the more powerful – and it sheds light on just how much Lara’s small encounters play a larger part into her own struggles. Here, it clicks: addiction’s a multi-faceted disease, no matter what form it takes. This time, as Lara learns, it’s about love, jealousy and abuse.

By: Debbie Zhou

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